Chad Graff / St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published March 05 2014
Wild acquire Moulson, McCormick in trade with SabresST. PAUL – The Minnesota Wild entered Wednesday’s trade deadline as the hottest team in the NHL, their 14-4-2 record since Jan. 1 the best in the league. So when general manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo said they were fine with the team they had, it made sense.
But as it became clear Wednesday that the Wild could nab a top-end forward without giving up a prospect, Fletcher decided to send a message:
The 2013-14 Wild are in it to win it.
With the 2 p.m. deadline approaching, Fletcher acquired three-time 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson and tough guy Cody McCormick from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for two second-round draft picks and fourth-line winger Torrey Mitchell.
“This is a move made to help us win games right now,” Fletcher said.
Despite riding a five-game winning streak into Saturday’s game against the Stars in Dallas, the Wild are just seventh in the Western Conference, eight points ahead of ninth-place Phoenix and 11 behind third-place Chicago.
“To me it was very important to recognize what our players have done,” Fletcher said. “We weren’t prepared to give up our top prospects or our first-round picks, but I felt if we could move anything else to help our team this year and to show our team that we believe in them – to reward them for what they’ve done in the last two months in particular – I felt it was very important.”
Moulson and McCormick will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season, while Mitchell still has another year on a contract with a $1.9 million salary cap hit next season – part of the reason the Wild were fine with parting ways. The other part is the fact that Mitchell has one goal and eight assists in 58 games.
Bottom line: A Wild team that already had plenty of cap space in the summer of 2014 now has even more.
Moulson, depending on what happens the rest of this season, may be a target for the Wild to re-sign but on Wednesday, he said a new contract is “the last thing I’ve thought about.”
“Minnesota is an incredible hockey state,” Moulson said. “The fans of Minnesota, it’s pretty easy to see how passionate they are. It’s exciting to go to a team that’s doing extremely well right now and has a great fan base. I’m just excited to get there and help this team win any way I can.”
Moulson, McCormick and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, whom the Wild acquired from Edmonton on Tuesday for a fourth-round pick, are expected to join the team for an afternoon practice today.
Bryzgalov will be Darcy Kuemper’s primary backup in the wake of Niklas Backstrom (abdomen) being shut down. But Moulson is the biggest addition. In 55 games this season with Buffalo and the New York Islanders, he has 17 goals, which now rank him third on the Wild behind Jason Pominville (22) and Zach Parise (21).
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.